World urged to donate over USD 10b for Afghan development

11th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

A senior US official is hoping the Paris donors conference this week will see world community pledge more than USD 10.5 billion.

11 June 2008

WASHINGTON - The world community will be urged to give "a solid start" to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's 50-billion dollar development plan at a Paris donors meeting this week, a senior US official said Tuesday.

The conference in the French capital on Thursday is aimed at extracting more than the 10.5 billion dollars pledged at the London donors conference two years ago, according to the official, Richard Boucher.

"It's not a conference to fill the 50 billion dollar tank," the assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs told reporters in Washington.

"It's a conference to put on the table a solid amount of money, more than London, to get a solid start on the five years of the Afghan development strategy," Boucher said.

Boucher declined to give exact figures for what he expected the international community or the United States to pledge for the Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

But Boucher's deputy Patrick Moon told AFP on Monday that the conference was expected to net a total of USD 15 billion in pledges.

Moon said the meeting does not aim to finance Karzai's entire plan, because legislative disparities among donor countries would make it impossible. US donations, for example, need Congress' approval before they can be disbursed.

Boucher said the US Congress has approved 26 billion dollars for Afghanistan since 2001, with about 70 percent of it disbursed.

Boucher said the development strategy amounts to implementing steps for the long-term goals of the London Compact.

"Afghans will lay out the progress that's been achieved, but also the priority among these goals, among these steps on how to continue to make progress," Boucher said.

The conference will also stress how to use the aid effectively and have Afghanistan lead development.

"Aid effectiveness is ... you might say a double-edged sword. It means, one, using money more effectively by spending it through Afghan government, through the Afghan contractors, through the Afghan trust funds," he said.

"And, two, it means using money more effectively by improving the Afghan capability to manage projects, to audit projects, to control corruption and other things that detract from the effectiveness of aid," he added.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday that the conference will show how much the world stands behind Afghanistan.

"This conference in Paris is one way of demonstrating that the international community is not going to lose faith in the Afghan people and the Afghan government," he said.

"We did that before. We've seen that, when we abandoned Afghanistan. And we saw the results of what happened," said McCormack, referring to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States by Al-Qaeda, allies of the former Taliban regime.

"So, certainly the United States is not going to repeat that."

First Lady Laura Bush is expected to announce the US contribution at the Paris conference, while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will give a speech on US policy in Afghanistan.

On her brief visit to Kabul on Sunday, Laura Bush announced an USD 80 million aid package for Afghan education projects.

The New York Times on Sunday reported that the US government was frustrated at Karzai's inability to deal with his country's main challenges, especially corruption and drug trafficking.

But Boucher said the United States supported Karzai. "He's the guy. He's the man we work with."

Afghanistan grows nearly 93 percent of the world's opium, according to the United Nations. It provides the country some four billion dollars a year in revenue, part of which goes to finance the Taliban insurgency.

[AFP / Expatica]

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